1554 Devil’s Food Cake with Black Pepper Meringue

I am not a baker. There’s something about the whole following directions thing that I just haven’t gotten the hang of. Unfortunately for me, baking doesn’t often tolerate a cook going rogue and that’s kind of what I did with this recipe.. I couldn’t stop drooling when I read it in Bon Apetit last month and had to give it a go, but also decided to add beer because, well, beer and chocolate go lovely together.

To my own disbelief, this cake turned out ah-freaking-mazing. In fact, I was so impressed with myself that I brought a piece to the Pastry Chef at my work for her to critique. Her response was excellent. As was the restaurant’s Forager who also tried a piece. Both let me know the recipe was a ‘keeper’ and so now, that’s exactly what I’m going to do – keep it – blog style.

But before we get into it, let me say that this recipe isn’t very difficult (don’t let the somewhat lengthy ingredient list fool you!), but it is sort of time consuming (less the sort of). Read through the steps, buy the ingredients in advance, and plan to make the filling the day before and have no fear that the invested time is absolutely worth the end result.



  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup New Belgium 1554 (or other dark beer, or kahlua)
  • 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 3 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche

  • nonstick oil spray or butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 6 tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. buttermilk
  • The rest of the bottle of 1554 (or other dark beer or more kahlua)
  • 1 tbs. finely ground espresso beans (optional)
  • 1 tbs. cocoa nibs (optional)
A candy thermometer would also be good to have to make the meringue.
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (fresh is a must)
  1. Pour 1 tbs. cream into a small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the chocolate and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1 tbs. sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Bring remaining cream, the beer, and 1 tbs. sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan; stir to dissolve.
  5. Gradually whisk the hot cream mixture in with the egg yolks, being careful not to create scrambled eggs (which I did on accident on the first attempt…).
  6. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it thickens slightly and your finger leaves a path when you draw a line on the back of a spoon. This will take ~3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  7.  Add the gelatin mixture to the cream mixture; stir to dissolve.
  8. Pour the cream mixture through a strainer (I use the same one I use for brewing) and into the large bowl with the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.
  9. Whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
  10. Add the creme fraiche.
  11. Use a stand up mixer (or your mad mixing skills) to beat until well blended.
  12. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the filling and chill overnight.
  13. IMPORTANT: Pour the rest of the beer into a bowl or glass and cover; leave it so that it goes flat and doesn’t affect the texture of the cake with its carbonated goodness.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Coat the bottom and sides of three 9″ cake pans (or one pan that you’ll use multiple times if you’re like me and lacking on the baking equipment) and line with parchment paper rounds.
  3. Whisk cocoa powder in a medium bowl; whisk in the egg and egg white.
  4. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. of lukewarm (yum) beer.
  5. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose and cake flours, baking soda, and baking powder.
  6. Using an electric mixer, beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl for ~2 minutes.
  7. Gradually beat cocoa mixture into butter mixture.
  8. Beat in flour in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions.
  9. Fold in espresso powder and/or cacao nibs if using.
  10. Divide the batter among pans; lift the pans a few inches into the air and drop on a hard surface to spread evenly in the pan and to prevent over mixing.
  11. Bake until a taster (toothpick) comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 15-17 minutes.
  12. Let cakes cool in pans set on wire racks (which I didn’t have) for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove cake from pans and let them cool completely. (I leave the parchment paper rounds on the cake to prevent the cake from sticking to a surface as I don’t have wire racks and it helps keep it intact since the cake is somewhat delicate while warm).
  1. Place 1 cake layer on a plate.
  2. Stir the filling to loosen.
  3. Spread half of the filling over cake in an even layer (and remember that frosting hides mistakes…).
  4. Place second cake layer on top of the filling.
  5. Spread remaining filling over the second layer.
  6. Place the remaining layer on top.
  7. Chill the cake while making the icing.
  1. Mix 1 tbs. sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Attach a candy thermometer to a small saucepan and add remaining sugar and 1/2 cup water.
  3. Sit over medium low heat until sugar dissolves.
  4. Increase heat and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan, until the thermometer shows 240F, which will take about 10 minutes.
  5. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment; beat at medium speed until frothy.
  6. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining sugar and salt.
  7. Gradually add the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites while the mixer is on medium-high.
  8. Continue beating the egg whites until they are stiff and cool; this will take around 20 minutes.
  9. Add the pepper.
  10. Immediately spoon onto the cake. Smooth over top and sides; swirl decoratively (and because it’s easier than trying to make the topping look clean and smooth).
  11. If you have a blow torch, torch away.


Filed under Cooking with Beer, Desserts, Recipes

2 responses to “1554 Devil’s Food Cake with Black Pepper Meringue

  1. I always have to rein in my creativity when I’m baking… but it’ worth it! This cake looks amazing, seriously amazing, by the way.

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